Traditionally Dogon masks are controlled by the Awa society, a group of predominantly male initiates who conduct the public rites that ensure the transition of the dead into the spirit world. A large number of masks participate in Dogon funerary rites and the dama, a celebration at the end of mourning. The masks also appear in the sigui, a celebration held only every 60 years to mark the change in generations.
There are more than 70 different Dogon masks, which can be grouped according to medium, whether fiber or wood; subject, whether animal, human or abstract; and character, whether predatory or nonpredatory. This wood mask is of a nonpredatory antelope, one of about 10 variations that share similar box-like faces with different sized and shaped horns.
The antelope, considered to be brave and capable of protecting its mate and territory, is a metaphor for masculine strength and virility.
Wood face mask representing an antelope with flat rectangular face broken by rectangular recesses, containing pierced rectangular eyes. The recesses are painted with red pigment and dotted with white, while the rest of the surface is encrusted grey-brown. The head is topped by two thick, slightly backward curving horns and long ovoid ears on the sides of the head. Proper right ear is partially broken off. Iron pin between ears.
David Markin, Chicago, -- to 1966
Thinking with Animals, African Images and Perceptions, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., March 24-September 7, 1982
Life...Afterlife: African Funerary Sculpture, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 1981-March 1, 1982
The Language of African Art, Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution Fine Arts and Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., May 24-September 7, 1970, no. 9
Museum of African Art. 1970. The Language of African Art, A Guest Exhibition of the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution Fine Arts & Portrait Gallery Building. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, no. 9 (not illustrated).